While the Biden administration investigates marijuana's federal scheduling, a bipartisan group of congressional members is urging the president to openly support outright legalization. Recently, a letter which is slated to be addressed to President Joe Biden and key cabinet officials was obtained by Marijuana Moment.
The Congressmen stated in the letter that while they applaud the directive of the scheduling review, the administration should embrace the virtues of full descheduling. The letter states that while the congressmen don't always agree on specific policies, they realize across the aisle that prolonged federal criminalization and prohibition of cannabis do not mirror the desires of the larger American population. It is past time for the Biden administration's agenda to adequately reflect this reality.
As Politico first reported, current signatories, include Congressional Cannabis Caucus co-chairs Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dave Joyce (R-OH), Brian Mast (R-FL), and Barbara Lee (D-CA). More signatures will still be needed before the letter is finished in the following days.
In their letter to the president, the lawmakers explained that cannabis does not belong in the Controlled Substances Act Schedule I class. The class is reserved for exceedingly dangerous substances with a high potential for misuse and no medicinal purpose. The decision to schedule cannabis was based on stigma rather than evidence, and it is time to right this injustice.
According to the letter, descheduling cannabis can uphold state and federal power to regulate cannabis while simultaneously granting states the right to continue criminalizing cannabis production and sales. The letter also notes that the House has twice supported proposals to federally legalize, regulate and tax cannabis.
Additionally, discriminatory scheduling of cannabis and standardizing federal cannabis regulations go hand-in-hand—like eliminating prohibitions and placing a greater burden on researchers trying to study cannabis relative to other Schedule I drugs. The federal government must end this criminalization and ban otherwise legal marijuana.
This will allow meaningful research to progress, creating legal employment opportunities, promoting public safety rather than unjust incarceration, and preserving established government oversight of cannabis taxation, production, and sales. The letter further explains that the need for federal guidance and legislative action on many of these facets must be considered. Still, all sections of the federal government must acknowledge the importance of the descheduling of cannabis. These federal sections also need to do so in a way that respects state sovereignty, the markets and laws within each state's purview to establish.
The coalition is distributing this letter as leaders in congress race against time to pass more constricted cannabis banking and expungement legislation during the lame-duck session.
According to a senior Senate Democratic aide, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is "making a last-ditch effort" to incorporate the incremental reform in impending omnibus appropriations legislation. However, key figures like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have been obstacles.
Advocates would obviously want to see greater legalization adopted sooner rather than later. Still, it has become clear that the Senate needs more backing to secure the requisite 60 votes for approval. The letter to Biden does not necessarily request that he take unilateral action to repeal the prohibition. Still, his support for the issue may make a significant difference. So far, the president has supported decriminalization and allowing states to choose their own rules. Still, he has been unwilling to endorse federal legalization.
The coalition claims that descheduling is required to eliminate the damaging federal cannabis prohibition and assist law enforcement officials in giving the public's safety the priority it deserves. Descheduling also creates an opportunity for taxing and regulating commercial cannabis activity, which is the most practical way to alleviate the legal uncertainties that small businesses face in jurisdictions with regulated cannabis markets.
The coalition anticipates that the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services will continue to work quickly to carry out your ordered review of marijuana's scheduling. The importance of full descheduling should guide the Administration's approach to comprehensive cannabis reform. At the same time, Congress works to give you comprehensive cannabis legislation. The continual inappropriate scheduling of marijuana is both esoteric and out of step with what the American people want. To take this important action, the coalition hopes the Biden Administration will cooperate openly and constructively with Congress.
CCed on the undated letter is U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra, who recently tweeted a hyperlink to a Marijuana Moment article about the president's administrative cannabis scheduling policy. "We're going to evaluate what scientific evidence tells us," said Becerra, a former congressman and California attorney general who has long advocated for cannabis legalization, at a recent overdose prevention conference. "That will guide our actions, and we hope it will guide the actions of the federal government."
Following the president's announcement of cannabis pardons and scheduling, the secretary stated that the department would act as swiftly as possible to complete the scientific study. He also mentioned that there's been a discussion with the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The congressmen's letter is also CCed to Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose Department of Justice oversees the scheduling review.
Meanwhile, the White House drug czar recently stated that the president's action was "historic," and that cannabis has obvious medical benefits. Like HHS, the DOJ has committed to expediting the separate scheduling study requested by the president, which may result in a proposal to place cannabis on a lower schedule or remove it entirely, thus legalizing cannabis under federal law.
Furthermore, following his federal clemency action, Biden recently applauded the governor of Oregon's decision to pardon thousands of marijuana offenders this month. Additionally, he advises other states to "follow Oregon's example. This month, the president also formally enacted the nation's first separate federal cannabis reform law by signing a bill on marijuana research into law.
Numerous polls have also revealed that Americans firmly support the president's pardon decision. These polls also show that Americans don't believe marijuana should be listed as a Schedule I substance by the federal government.